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☞   National Brotherhood Week

This is an archive of prayers written for or relevant to National Brotherhood Week in the United States.

National Brotherhood Week was established in 1934 by the National Conference for Christians & Jews (NCCJ) and dedicated to emphasizing the values of welcoming immigrants, and for fostering interracial and interreligious tolerance and mutual respect in a pluralistic and multicultural civil society. During World War II, President Roosevelt explained its purpose: “We are fighting for the right of men to live together as members of one family rather than as masters and slaves. We are fighting that the spirit of brotherhood which we prize in this country may be practiced here and by free men everywhere. It is our promise to extend such brotherhood earthwide which gives hope to all the world. The war makes the appeal of Brotherhood Week stronger than ever.” To join the Brotherhood, one was invited to recite the following pledge written by director, David O. Selznick. (The pledge was disseminated in cinemas via a short film, The American Creed (1946), highlighting the approbations of many of Hollywood’s luminaries.):

I pledge allegiance to this basic ideal of my country—fair play for all.

I pledge myself to keep America free from the disease of hate that destroyed Europe.

In good heart, I pledge unto my fellow Americans all the rights and the dignities I desire for myself.

And to win support for these principles across the land, I join the American Brotherhood.

Originally set for the third week of February, in 1943 during World War II, President Franklin Roosevelt called for its celebration for ten days, from February 19th till the 28th. After the war, the “week” was either marked as the third week in February, February 17th through the 24th, or as the period between the birthdays of President Abraham Lincoln (February 12th) and George Washington (February 22nd).

Click here to contribute a prayer you have written, translated, or transcribed for National Brotherhood Week.

[Prayer for] Brotherhood Week, by Rabbi Avraham Samuel Soltes (1951)

A prayer for Brotherhood Week, written in 1951. . . .

An American Covenant of Brotherhood, by Rabbi Mordecai Kaplan and Eugene Kohn (1945)

A civic prayer for the Sabbath occurring during Brotherhood Week (February 19th-28th) in the United States. . . .

A Prayer for Peace and Goodwill Among the Nations of the Earth, by Rabbi Jonas Kaminkowski (1927)

A prayer for intra-national peace, post WWI. . . .

Declaration of Interdependence, by Meyer David, Christian Richard, and Will Durant (1944)

Declaration of Interdependence (Meyer David, Christian Richard, and Will Durant 1944)

A Declaration of Interdependence co-authored during WW II as part of an interfaith Jewish-Christian response to fascism and “to mitigate racial and religious animosity in America.” . . .

Prayer at the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, by Rabbi Uri Miller (28 August 1963)

Prayer delivered by Rabbi Uri Miller, President of the Synagogue Council of America, at the March on Washington, August 28, 1963 . . .

Prayer for Brotherhood, by Stephen Vincent Benét on United Nations Flag Day (14 June 1942)

This prayer by Stephen Vincent Benét (1898-1943) was first publicly read in 1942 in the course of a United Nations Day speech by President Franklin D. Roosevelt. . . .

בּרידער | “Brothers” – Y.L. Peretz’s Sardonic Rejoinder to Friedrich Schiller’s Paean to Universal Enlightenment, An die Freude (Ode to Joy)

Y.L. Peretz rejected cultural universalism, seeing the world as composed of different nations, each with its own character. Liptzin comments that “Every people is seen by him as a chosen people…”; he saw his role as a Jewish writer to express “Jewish ideals…grounded in Jewish tradition and Jewish history.” This is Peretz lampoon of the popularity of Friedrich Schiller’s idealistic paean made famous as the lyrics to the climax of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony. . . .

Iwo Jima Memorial Address at Fifth Marine Division Cemetery, by Rabbi Chaplain Roland B. Gittelsohn (21 March 1945)

A chaplain’s eulogy over the fallen soldiers of Iwo Jima (also known under the title, “The Highest and Purest Democracy”) . . .

A Prayer for Peace After War, by Norman Corwin (1945)

A prayer for peace from the end of World War II. . . .

שִׁיר לְשִׂמְחָה | Shir l’Simḥah, Friedrich Schiller’s An die Freude (ode to Joy) in Hebrew, 1795

In 1785 Friedrich Schiller wrote his ‘An die Freude an ode ‘To Joy’, describing his ideal of an equal society united in joy and friendship. Numerous copies and adaptations attest to its popularity at the time. The slightly altered 1803 edition was set to music not only by Ludwig van Beethoven in his Ninth Symphony but also by other composers such as Franz Schubert and Pyotr Tchaikovsky. Hs. Ros. PL B-57 contains a Hebrew translation of the first edition of the ode (apparently rendered before the 1803 alteration), revealing that the spirit of the age even managed to reach the Jewish community in the Netherlands. Whereas the imagery of Schiller’s original is drawn from Greek mythology, the author of the שִׁיר לְשִׂמְחָה relies on the Bible as a source. In fact, he not only utilises Biblical imagery, but successfully avoids any allusion to Hellenistic ideas whatsoever. . . .

Prayer for Universal Peace, by Rabbi Hillel Lavery-Yisraëli

A prayer for universal peace offered by Hillel Yisraeli-Lavery as an opening prayer to a talk given in Hamilton, Canada by 2011 Nobel Prize winner Leymah Gbowee. . . .